There’s a lone open bottle of olives in your fridge. You’ve used a third of it in a pizza, a small bunch in a salad, and you’re wondering for how long you can refrigerate the rest. It’s not like you use olives every day, so knowing precisely for how long you can keep them before they go bad is essential.
The good news is, no matter if we’re talking about green or black olives, stuffed, pitted, or whole, the storage guidelines, and spoilage indication are pretty much the same. The bad news is, it’s difficult to say what’s the shelf life of an open bottle of olives. But first things first.
Can Olives Go Bad? How To Tell They Are Bad?
I’m pretty sure you know that olives can go off, and there are a couple of ways that can happen.
When it comes to an unopened bottle or jar, if the lid is popped instead of flat, that’s a sure sign something went wrong. Examine the olives carefully before eating, or discard them for safety reasons. Both choices are fine.
Once you open up the container, examine its contents as you do with all food. That means checking how it looks, smells, and tastes.
For starters, look for visual indication of spoilage, like mold. If there are some while floaties on the surface of the brine, you can remove them and eat the olives just fine ([MZ]). I won’t blame you if you throw out the olives when you see mold, though. If it’s a brine-free package, mold means the olives are done for.
Second, give it a good whiff to check if the brine smells fresh or not. I once had a jar of olives that (for some reason) went off after a couple of days in the fridge, and the smell was disgusting. Even if those olives were still edible, all I wanted to do was to get rid of it. In short, if it smells bad, discard it.
Last but not least, the texture and taste. If both smell and visuals are okay, time to give those little guys a taste. In case there’s something off with the flavor, throw them out. If the taste is okay, they are most likely perfectly safe to eat. Please note that olives over time can lose some of their texture, and if that happens, they work better in cooked dishes than in salads.
Pay special attention to all the described factors if it’s a liquid-free package, as those don’t last as long and quickly go bad if the packaging has a tiny hole.
Generally, checking whether olives are spoiled or not is rather intuitive. Let’s talk about shelf life, which definitely isn’t as straightforward.
How Long Do Olives Last?
When it comes to shelf life, there’s not much difference between different cultivars (like Kalamata or Manzanilla) and varieties of olives. For an unopened package, go with the best-by date on the label. For most types of olives, their shelf life is between a year or two. That’s already included in that date. Of course, chances are the olive’s fruit will stay just fine for a couple of weeks or even months past that date.
Once you open the package, abide by the storage time indicated on the label. The label of olives I usually buy says I should finish the jar within a week. Other brands typically ask you to use the fruits within a week to maybe ten days ([CA]). If it’s a liquid-free package (that is, the olives aren’t submerged in brine, vinegar, or oil), they usually keep quality between 3 and 5 days of opening.
That’s it for the straightforward part. I’m sure you’ve heard of people who store open jars of olives for months on end, and the olives stay perfectly fine. Some brands, like Mezzetta, say that their olives should last a year after opening ([MZ]). How does that work?
I don’t have all the answers, but I can make an educated guess. First off, some brines are saltier than others, and stronger brines are less likely to spoil. Second is food hygiene. If you always use clean utensils to grab olives, chances are you won’t introduce any harmful bacteria to the brine.
All in all, read the label and take good care of the fruits. If you do that, you should be able to get at least an additional week or two of storage for liquid-packed olives.
How To Store Olives?
This one is pretty straightforward. An unopened package should sit at room temperature or slightly below, away from heat sources and in a closed cabinet. Storing the olives in darkness is especially important for bottles and jars because they let the light in, and prolonged exposure might result in an altered taste.
An open package of olives belongs in the fridge, tightly sealed unless the label says otherwise. If the olives are liquid-packed, leave the liquid as is; it helps keeps the fruit fresh. In case you already discarded the brine, you can easily make your own with just salt and water ([CA]). And make sure the liquid always covers the olives. Otherwise, the fruits that are above the surface level might spoil.
For liquid-free packages, seal the olives tight after opening. If the pouch isn’t resealable, use a small airtight container or a freezer bag.
In a Nutshell
- To check for spoilage, look for visual cues like mold, off odor, or changes in flavor; especially if it’s a liquid-free package.
- Opened liquid-free olives usually last up to 3 days. Liquid packed ones typically keep for at least a week or two, but often much longer if you take good care of them.
- Refrigerate the olives after opening. Make sure they are submerged in brine or any other liquid they came in. If the package was liquid-free, make sure you seal the leftovers tightly.